According to the Medium platform, the number of product manager roles has grown by 32% from 2017 to 2019. This increase in demand has good reasons: the jump in e-commerce, the development of digital financial instruments in the banking sector, and increased requirements for products due to fierce competition.
Despite the great number of job opportunities, companies strive to fill a vacancy and hire the right person for this important position. In this guide, we will discuss how to become a product manager with no experience and meet potential employers’ needs.
How to Get Into Product Management: Required Skills
If you are interested in how to break into product management, you should know that this profession is in demand in different areas. You can work on software and applications in the IT industry, develop savings accounts and credit cards in the financial sector, or create any manufactured products from toys to household appliances. Whichever field of expertise you choose, be prepared to prove the following skills even for an entry-level product manager job.
As a product manager, you regularly interact with stakeholders, such as designers, engineers, developers, customers, marketers, and others. And the success of your work and your projects mainly depends on the quality of this interaction. Therefore, make sure that you can carefully listen to the interlocutor, put your thoughts into layman’s terms, find compromises, defend your ideas, and make concessions.
You need to understand that any product you create solves a specific end-user problem. Therefore, generating effective solutions is your direct responsibility by default. Be prepared that your ideas may not coincide with the budget or available project resources. Your ability to solve problems, in this case, will help you develop an alternative but equally effective action plan under the given circumstances.
According to Forbes, understanding UX design and basic coding skills significantly increase your chances of getting into a product management job in IT. But even if you unlock your potential in the manufacturing or financial sector, you still need to work closely with the engineers and understand all the steps to turn your product into reality. Therefore, get started by learning about modern hardware and software in your field.
Your goal is to create a product that will be in demand in the market. Marketing awareness will help you study the target audience and its needs, analyze competitors, test the product with potential buyers, and develop effective promotion strategies to launch it.
Once the marketing research is complete, you must process all the received information and turn it into a sturdy foundation for product improvement. Analytical skills will help you establish the right causal relationships and draw the correct conclusions accordingly.
Creating a product from scratch is a complex and multi-layered process that involves many participants. And it is you, as the product manager, who will coordinate the cross-functional team. Therefore, you must be able to organize the workflow, prioritize tasks, and monitor their implementation under deadlines.
How to Succeed in Applying for a Product Management Position?
The main problem with how to start a product manager career path is making up for your lack of experience and proving your potential to an employer. To solve it, you need to present your skills, background, and motivation in your application documents.
- Resume. The product manager position may not be the first job in your track record. It requires insider knowledge of the industry and at least a superficial familiarity with the production process. Therefore, create or edit your resume. It should be focused on your work history in the chosen field, be it technical or non-technical roles.
Feel free to fill the skills section with the abilities listed earlier. However, be honest, as all your skills can be tested in an interview or on the job. Be sure to include your education and degree. Specialties such as marketing, communications, economics, computer science, or management will become your competitive advantage.
- Cover Letter. A cover letter is the best opportunity to tell a potential employer why you decided to become a product manager, what you can offer the company and the team, and why they should hire you. In this document, you should not just list your strengths but also explain how each of them will help you succeed in your new role. Besides, mention your motivation to work in this particular industry or company, and emphasize your genuine interest in its products. A cover letter for a product manager is your “must-have” whether looking for a promotion within your current company or offering your services to a new employer.
How to Start a Product Manager Career Path: Proven Ways
The job search is often an unpredictable process where your success may depend not only on your qualifications and aspirations but also on luck. Therefore, there is no universal recipe for how to get a product management job with no experience. However, we have found several essential steps that will bring you closer to your career goal.
1. Look for opportunities within the company. CEOs often assign valuable internal talent to the product manager position. If an employee has worked in a company for a certain period, they know its inner workings, product features, goals, and standards. Also, such an employee already knows the team members, and therefore, it is easier for them to establish relationships.
If you want to be that valuable talent, go beyond your daily activities. Find out what products the company plans to launch, take an interest in the main requirements, jot down a couple of ideas, and submit them for consideration. Besides, talk to the HR manager, clarify the available product manager vacancy, and ask the “How do I get into management without experience?” question straight out. If you have a good reputation in the company, they will tell you what you can do to become a worthy candidate.
2. Develop constantly. Even if you have the right degree for the product manager role, this is not a reason to stop studying. Every industry is changing rapidly, along with the requirements and technologies for product creation. Therefore, you must always keep up with the times. Fortunately, many helpful materials are available online. The Muse recommends books such as “The Design of Everyday Things” by Don Norman or “Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan and helpful blogs such as Marty Cagan’s Blog and ProductHunt. These resources will help you delve into the finer points of product management step by step.
3. Expand your portfolio. Even small completed projects will increase your employability. So hurry to put your knowledge and ideas into practice. For this purpose, focus on startups. These companies often have a limited budget, so their founders are ready to cooperate with young professionals. Be prepared to work for low wages. But on the other hand, you will receive valuable material for your portfolio and cherished work experience that will simplify your subsequent job searches.
4. Think like a product manager. You come across a variety of digital and tangible products every day. Often, you don’t try to evaluate and analyze them. Meanwhile, this practice helps develop the mindset of a genuine product manager. Focus on any product, whether it’s an online shopping app or even a washing machine. Think about what features you would add to it for convenience, what you would like to change, what made you choose it among all the competitors. Product managers ask themselves such questions daily. Therefore, the sooner you learn to respond to them, the closer you are to the desired position.
5. Build a professional network. The proven way to get into any industry is to connect with its insiders. For this purpose, join online professional communities such as The Product Stack, Elezea, Mind the Product, and others. Find out the schedule and try to attend at least one thematic event. It could be ProductCamp or ProductTank, which are held in different cities around the world. Finally, remember to be active on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Many companies and industry influencers have profiles and post valuable information to their followers, sometimes including available jobs.
The product is the heart of any company, its business card in the market, and the main link with consumers. That is why the product manager position implies a high degree of responsibility.
Employers want to be sure that they know their stuff, have a passion for their work, and bend every effort to make the perfect product. If you recognize yourself in this description, the lack of experience will not interfere with your employment. Remember, there are far more candidates with an extensive track record than those who have found their true vocation in product management.